But the ambitious plan hit a snag last week when Y&R Chairman Ed Vick vetoed a new name just before it was set to be unveiled.
Branding agency Landor Associates, also owned by Y&R, spent months coming up with a new identity for Wunderman. The sibling companies settled on the name -ology, pronounced simply "ology." A logo and tagline were developed, as were print ads announcing the change.
But Mr. Vick, who also serves as the parent company's chief creative officer, sent Landor and Wunderman back to the drawing board. Mr. Vick was not available for comment, but executives with knowledge of the situation expect a quick decision on a new name-also likely to be an invented, single word.
EXECS CAUGHT OFF-GUARD
Wunderman executives, who were said to have embraced the -ology name, were caught off-guard by the rejection. One executive close to the company said CEO Jay Bingle was particularly upset. Mr. Bingle referred calls to Chris Cooney, exec VP-global marketing and communications.
"It's no secret WCJ is continually evolving its worldwide [customer-relationship management] capabilities to support the needs of our clients . . . and we'll never be shy about sharing information with the marketplace when we have something to say," said Mr. Cooney, who declined to discuss details of the repositioning.
One thing is clear: The repositioning will remove founder Lester Wunderman's name from the door after more than 40 years. Mr. Wunderman, who still holds the title of chairman emeritus, declined comment.
Wunderman has moved away from its traditional direct marketing roots since Mr. Bingle came on board two years ago. Last year, the company announced it would offer marketing programs that integrate Internet, database management, telemarketing and consulting services.
A recent report by Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette analyst David McMurry predicted Y&R would devote much of its cash flow to strategic deals focused "on the continuing transformation of Wunderman Cato Johnson into a customer-relationship management business."
Wunderman's $140 million in U.S. revenue for 1998 represented almost 40% of Y&R's total U.S. income. Wunderman clients include H&R Block; Jim Beam Brands Worldwide; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Sony Electronics; and Taco Bell.
Contributing: Amanda Beeler.